shankara's vivaraNa on vyAsa bhAShya of yoga sUtra-s

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Oct 5 13:46:58 CDT 1998

On Thu, 17 Sep 1998, Ravisankar S. Mayavaram wrote:


> In mAdhava vidyAraNya shankara dig vijaya, in the last chapter,
> there is reference to shrI shankara teaching the students of
> patanjalis yoga sutra. This happens at Badari and shrI shankara
> teaches sUtra-s to the students from a advaita-vedanta
> perspective. After learning from, they abandoned the original
> commentary and followed shrI shankara's teachings.
> I write this in response to shrI Jaladhar Vyas question about the
> authenticity of shankara's vivaraNa. In the introduction of the
> text, Trevor Leggett also remarks that shankaracharya of sringeri
> showed keen interest in the work.
> I admit that I am not a scholar, and I do not have enough
> material to prove or disprove the authenticity.

Nobody does.  Something that people (expecially our Indian people) often
don't realize about the so-called 'critical' methods of scholarship is how
unscholarly they often are.  Given that we are discussing events of
centuries ago, we are often forced to resort to guesswork and I freely
admit I am doing the same.  I cannot prove or disprove my guess either but
I can offer some reasons for thinking the way I do.

Samkhya and Yoga are probably the oldest Astika philosophies.  Samkhya
(literally 'enumeration' or 'analysis') was founded by Maharshi Kapila the
avatar of Vishnu Bhagavan.  Yoga (literally 'practice') was founded by
Maharshi Patanjali who is traditionally said (as you mentioned) the avatar
of Sheshanaga.  samkhya-yoga is mentioned in the Vedas and according to
the Paraskaragrhyasutra, Kapila, Asuri, Panchashikha, and Vodhu, the
ancient acharyas of Samkhya should be worshipped in the nitya tarpana.

Just as the practical discussions about the meaning of the Vedas grew into
Mimamsa and Vedanta, practical attempts to analyze the nature of the world
and Man developed into the philosophies of Samkhya and Yoga.  Thus we
see Samkhya and yoga ideas in "non-philosophical" works such as
Ayurveda and Arthashastra as well as the Mahabharata etc.

By the time of Shankaracharya the two schools were well established and
engaging in polemics with their rivals.

Having said that, these are the reasons the vivarana should be considered
not genuine.

1.  In his works, Shankaracharya spends much of the time refuting the
views of other schools.  (Particularly Samkhya which was the most serious
rival amongst the astika darshans.)  It seems out of character for him to
then be commenting on another darshans sutras.  I believe Trevor Leggett
had a theory that Shankaracharya started his career as a Yogi and then was
"converted" to Vedanta by Govindacharya.  This sounds rather improbable
and doesn't match the traditional accounts.

2.  Shankaracharya is vehemently against upasana as a method to moksha.  A
preparatory step perhaps but thats not what the Yogasutras teach.  Also in
the Bhagavadgitabhashya there are ample opportunities to discuss Samkhya
and Yoga.  Shankaracharya refuses to discuss the gita as anything other
than a work of Vedanta.

3. Given the importance of Yoga and Shankaracharya both then and now, such
a work as the vivarana is literary dynamite.  Why is it that such an
important thing could go missing for so long?  Vachaspati Mishra did not
mention it and he was well acquainted with Shankaracharyas works.  Vignana
Bhikshu wrote on yoga and was keen to refute Advaita Vedanta.  Surely he
would have mentioned it but he didn't.  And finally in the early years of
this century, the Vani Vilas press produced an edition of the complete
works of Shankaracharya under the guidance of Shringeri.  It also doesn't
include the vivarana.

So, for what its worth, I don't think the vivarana is genuine.  But like
I said, I can't prove it.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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